Release and photo courtesy of Princeton Athletic Communications.
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Entering the NCAA Tournament without a loss since Dec. 20, the Princeton men's basketball team aimed to tie the program record with a 20th straight win. It'd have to come against Notre Dame, ranked No. 14 in the nation by both the AP and the coaches and seeded fifth to Princeton's 12th in the NCAA West Region.
When Princeton ran that win streak to 20 with a win over UNLV in the first round of the 1998 NCAA Tournament, Princeton was the fifth seed and Mitch Henderson was a senior. Thursday afternoon at Buffalo's KeyBank Center, Henderson was on the sideline as Princeton's head coach and the Tigers were the 12th-seeded underdog.
The program record will stay with the team for which Henderson had a 21 on his chest, not a tie. Notre Dame followed through as the favorite, advancing to the second round with a 60-58 win.
A 10-0 Irish run during which the Tigers went 0 of 8 from the field turned a two-point Princeton lead into an eight-point Notre Dame advantage at 25-17 with six-plus minutes to play before the half. Though Spencer Weisz and Devin Cannady each responded with a 3 to end the drought and pull within two, the Tigers never closed the gap and entered the half down six. Notre Dame shot 46.7 percent from the field to 37.5 percent for the Tigers and outrebounded Princeton 23-14 helping a 7-0 advantage in second-chance points.
After the break, Notre Dame led by as many as 11 points, but a stretch that saw Princeton keep the Irish off the board for three-plus minutes let Princeton pull back within four at 53-49 with five minutes to go. The Tigers got within one on a Steven Cook 3 with 3:20 to go to make it 55-54 for the Irish, and although Princeton trailed by one with 10 seconds left and the ball, a would-be go-ahead 3 didn't fall.
Weisz led the Tigers with 15 points along with senior classmate Steven Cook in double figures with 11 and sophomore Myles Stephens with 10. Bonzie Colson had a game-high 18 for Notre Dame.
Princeton finished 8 of 31 from deep while the Irish narrowly outshot Princeton overall 40.4 percent to 38.6 percent. By game's end, the Tigers narrowed the rebounding gap to a 36-33 Irish edge and just a 9-4 Notre Dame advantage in second-chance points.